It’s not a sunny new Spring day here but it is Spring! Tonite will mark the even but ascendant time of the sun and sky – renewal, birth, cycles of new growth. And like all new babies, the earth needs tending to – nourishment, immune strengthening, and extra care. We’ve been ignoring the signs for a while, as a species and especially culture, and not that we are the world’s parents (that’s a little too anthropocentric for me, besides, it’s mutual, for sure – the plants and air and soil are as much a part of us, as they care for us, as well) but we should step up like we do for every other subjugated entity under existential threat.
With all that said (I can’t help it, it’s Spring – a freshness and attention to care seems key), we will celebrate this weekend with canning more luscious Maple Syrup, taking care of seedlings, decorating with paper flowers and colored eggs, and if it stops raining- a seasonal hike and maybe even some raking out the garden, family time with games/puzzles and maybe even a snuggly movie. We like to have some celebratory foods, too!
This year we’re making a Moroccan Tagine with lamb and prunes (sorry – dried plums, they got an upgrade a few years ago), and homemade flatbreads. Maybe a lemon pound cake. Fresh green Spring salad. I’ve been in love with Morocco since I was young and always dreamed of going there. Early on when we lived in Burlington we were shopping in Montpelier at Rivendell Books (apparently since has merged with Bear Pond) and found the 1st Edition Couscous cookbook from the great Paula Wolfert (I’ve since come to adore, having a few of her cookbooks) – in the late 1960’s/early ’70’s she went all over Morocco to translate homecooking to English speaking cooks and modern (ish) techniques. She doesn’t go very far with the latter which I love – she is a lover of clay pot cooking around the world, too (me too!) and authentic ingredients. Many of our celebrations feature Moroccan dishes. We were very lucky and honored to be invited on a family vacation to Morocco for a month many many moons ago and it was glorious – the hospitality, the food, the sites – amazing.
Welcome Spring – let us all hope for care, connection, and growth!
Lamb Tagine with Prunes and Almonds (Serves 6-8)
3 – 3.5 lbs shoulder of lamb (or beef chuck), cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Pinch of pulverized saffron
Salt to taste, 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (separated into 2-1/4 tsp)
3 Tbsp grated onion
1 lb pitted prunes (Soak if needed for 20 min in cold water but most nowadays are soft)
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 cup toasted almonds
Can also add 4-5 sprigs cilantro (during initial casserole cooking period), 1 cup finely sliced onion (add after tagine has cooked an hour), and 4 Med tart Apples (quartered, cored, and sauteed with 1 Tbsp honey, a pinch of cinnamon, and 1 Tbsp butter until soft and glazed, decorate finished tagine) or substitute apples and prunes for 2 lbs fresh apricots (just heat in sauce at last minute).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, position rack in lower center of oven. Melt butter, mix with oil, saffron, S&P, ginger, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and grated onion. In cast iron or other heavy-bottom pan, brown meat gently to release aroma of spices. Add just enough water to cover, bring to a boil then transfer to tagine or dutch oven, cover and bake for an hour. Drain prunes (if needed to soak), add to meat with 3 Tbsp honey, remaining 1/4 tsp cinnamon, uncover and bake until prunes swell and sauce has reduced to 1 cup (add more water if necessary to make it so).
To serve, arrange on serving dish (it is customary to eat directly from the same platter, using flatbreads or french bread to scoop tagine with the right hand from your own ‘zone’) scattering almonds and sesame seeds on top. Drizzle with remaining Tbsp honey.
Serve with simple and simply dressed (lemon vinaigrette) microgreen salad, maybe with thinly sliced red onion and preserved lemon rind. Enjoy!